Jonathan Werran 16 March 2012

Electoral Commission warning over PCC mail-out plan

Millions of people without Internet access will be unable to access information on police and crime commissioner candidates (PCCs) due to a planned government block on publicly-funded mail-outs, the Electoral Commission has warned.

The Commission says up to seven million people in England (excluding London, where there will not be a PCC election) and Wales would be affected by the decision to rely on a central website as the main method of communication between candidates and voters.

Under current Home Office proposals, information about PCC candidates would be monitored and uploaded to a single site by police area returning officers, a shift heralding ‘a significant departure from mayoral and Parliamentary elections’.

Such a move would ‘disproportionately affect groups that have low levels of Internet access, such as the elderly and those who live in rural areas,’ the Electoral Commmission claims in a briefing paper.

The Commission argues that the 41 police force areas where elections will be held on 15 November comprise complex constituencies made up of multiple electoral areas, requiring candidates to canvass a much larger number of voters than other elected posts. Independent candidates lacking the support of a political party to back their campaign may struggle, it suggests.

The fact some elections for directly-elected mayors will be taking place on the same day is likely to cause further confusion, the Commission warns.

Subject to referendums taking place in 10 English cities on 3 May, mayoral candidates will be allowed to mail to voters booklets containing information provided by them under election procedures overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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